Why do we accept so much unhappiness in our lives today? If you think this supposition is untrue, ask yourself why people spend so much time seeking ways to distract themselves with empty pleasures? Or why so many people push themselves along one spiritual path after another, blindly hoping that something will happen to mitigate their sense of emptiness? To understand such questions we must be willing to explore a few of the broader questions concerning what seems like an epidemic of human suffering. And please remember this spiritual axiom as we proceed: Anything in us that resists exploring the cause of a sorrow is itself part of the pain that prefers to stay unexposed.
Keeping these ideas in mind, consider this: is the kind of pain most people tolerate really necessary? And if, as many would presume, these various heartaches, fears, and frustrations are part and parcel of participating in life, can we be so sure that these same pains are an inescapable attribute of reality? Or are these dark moments unnecessary, just shadows of our misunderstanding about what is possible in life and what is not?
Now I realize that in today's highly spiritualized slick atmosphere, the suggestion that some things in life are impossible may not find favor. After all, according to the reasoning of many of today's so-called masters and gurus, nothing is impossible for those realized beings illuminated by the "light" of their exclusive teachings, sentiments easily swallowed by the weak and weary.
But there are things in this life that cannot be done. And, as we are about to discover, it is our repeated attempts to do these things that actually produce much, if not all, of our everyday unhappiness -- an unhappiness that we erroneously blame upon other people and circumstances in life. The brief explanation that follows reveals both the truth of this and why we need to see it.
We begin with the fact that each of us does have the power, in one way or another, to do as we wish when we wish it. The issue at hand isn't that we can't do what we wish, but that these actions cannot deliver the result intended by our original wish.
For instance, take a person who wants to win everyone's approval. He believes that it is possible to adjust his behavior so that whomever he meets will like him. This is his wish, and to make it come true, he changes his behavior with everyone he encounters, known to him or not. We can agree that it is possible for him to act out his hope of being loved by all he meets.
But what is impossible for him to do -- regardless of how any particular encounter turns out -- is to free himself of his nagging insecurity by acting out what this fearful nature compels him to do. And since we also know that it is this same strained sense of himself -- of feeling inept or insufficient -- that drives him to seek its opposite, for example, trying to impress people to win their approval, then what is it at work in him? What is it that is actually interfacing with these people he wants to win over? It is his own undetected weakness, a fact hidden from him because of his identification with his pretend powers of self-command!
Now add to this last idea the fact that others can easily see this weakness at work within us. We may not be conscious of our own psychological shortcomings, but we can sure recognize them in others! And more, it is the nature of all such unconscious weakness to judge and then pounce upon anyone else displaying it. Put these facts together and it becomes obvious that not only is it impossible for this one person to fulfill his wish, but his attempt to do so is causing the very suffering he so resists.
Here is the heart of this lesson: No opposite can cancel itself. It is impossible. We can draw upon the following short metaphor to help us better understand this crucial spiritual truth.
Imagine a sad pencil that wants all the pens of the world to acknowledge the strength of its carbon center, but it can't win its way! So, it decides not to be a pencil any more. And while one end of this pained pencil concocts ways to change itself into something that is no longer a lead-filled wooden stick, in the end -- by the very need it has to dream such dreams to escape itself -- it remains pained for remaining a "mere" pencil.
The more we learn about the unnecessary suffering these unseen opposites create in us through our unconscious relationship with them, the freer we become from unconscious drives to attempt the impossible. For example, it is impossible to bring an end to emotional suffering by imagining a new joy. Can you see from our study why this is true?
The self that is moved to do this kind of imagining does not understand that some unseen force of sorrow or distress fuels its dream engine. As a consequence, the more it works to imagine some hoped-for happiness, the more identified it becomes with the opposite of what is driving this dream of brighter times to come.
Our lives are meant to be bright, noble, and ever ascending. This promise of our true potential is made good in us by fulfilling our possibilities and not through the interminable struggle of trying to prove what is impossible. Most of our sorrows are the stressful offspring of trying to be something we have no real need to be; they are born for attempting to do what cannot -- and need not -- be done.
Whenever we are goaded into attempting the "impossible," we not only suffer defeat, but we also strengthen the self that would have us believe it's possible to put a fire out with gasoline. Second, as we awaken to see these false workings in our mind, we also see there is only one possible solution to end the suffering they cause: we must stop listening to and obeying their foolish advice. In other words, as soon as we see that the healing we hope for begins with releasing our unseen relationship with the parts of ourselves that are responsible for our self-hurting, the sooner our heartaches end.